RALEIGH — The state’s top National Guard official is warning that a national furlough policy will cause financial hardship for some guard members and their families, including more than 300 in the Triangle.
Because of the federal budget policy known as sequestration, the Defense Department is requiring its civilian employees to take 11 days of unpaid leave between July 8 and Sept. 30 – a 20 percent hit to their incomes during that period.
The department’s policy includes a group of National Guard members known as “dual status federal technicians.”
They’re considered civilian employees, but they’re also required to enlist in the guard.
Army Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk, the state’s adjutant general, said in a statement released late last month that requiring North Carolina’s 1,050 dual status technicians to participate in the furlough is a problem, both for them and the National Guard.
“I am very concerned about the impact to our troops, their families, and the readiness of our units,” he wrote. The group includes 360 dual status technicians from the Triangle.
Sgt. Justin Hedgepeth and his wife, Sgt. Chantelle Hedgepeth, live in Raleigh and are both dual status technicians affected by the furlough.
They’ve been in the Guard for seven and 10 years, respectively, and Chantelle deployed to Iraq from 2004 to 2005.
Hedgepeth said the policy means he and his wife are keeping a close eye on their budget, especially with four children ages 6 and under to take care of.
“It’s affecting us financially,” he said. Right now, the policy means cutting back on trips and activities for their children. If the furlough were extended, Hedgepeth said they would need to tighten their belts in other areas as well.
In his comments, Lusk also wrote that he is worried about the effects of the policy on the state’s 44 civilian technicians.
Both groups of technicians work for the guard full time in areas ranging from communications to maintenance. The dual status technicians wear uniforms to work and can be deployed.
Lusk, along with National Guard officials in many states, is urging Congress to pass legislation that would exempt technicians from the furlough.
Nationwide, nearly 50,000 dual status federal technicians make up about half of the National Guard’s full-time force, said John Goheen, a spokesman for the private National Guard Association of the United States.
“The longer this goes on, the more work piles up,” he said. “And readiness can begin to erode.”
Lusk wrote that if the furloughs were to continue into 2014, they would affect the National Guard’s ability to work in an “optimal fashion.”